Archive for February, 2009

By permission based web, I mean companies asking you if you have permission to share another person’s contact information.  Going back to my post about “Who’s giving out your digits“, today I saw my first real example from Reuters (I’m sure there are others) of a company asking you to verify that you have permission to use that contact’s information in that way.  I went to email an article to a coworker and at the bottom of the pop up window next to the ‘send’ button it read “I confirm that I have the recipient’s consent to provide their email address for this purpose.”  I don’t see how you would ever confirm this, it’s more of an honour system, but at least it makes me stop and think about it. 

Reuters now asks if you have the permission of the contact to send them information.

Reuters now asks if you have the permission of the contact to send them information.

Have you seen any good examples of this recently?  Add them in the comments, or send me a screenshot with “permission example” in the subject line (with details on where it’s from, etc.) to and I’ll be sure to add them to this post.

Who’s in control?

Posted: February 18, 2009 in social media

In social media, the company does not define the rules.  The community does.  But in social media, the company is just as much a member of the community as the consumer.

I opened up my Facebook page this morning to see the following update at the top.


When I went to visit the Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Group, I found the following:

This group is for people to give input on Facebook’s terms of use. These terms are meant to serve as the governing document for how the service is used by people around the world.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Here are responses to some of the things you’ve written below:

1. You own your information. Facebook does not. This includes your photos and all other content.

2. Facebook doesn’t claim rights to any of your photos or other content. We need a license in order to help you share information with your friends, but we don’t claim to own your information.

3. We won’t use the information you share on Facebook for anything you haven’t asked us to. We realize our current terms are too broad here and they make it seem like we might share information in ways you don’t want, but this isn’t what we’re doing.

4. We will not share your information with anyone if you deactivate your account. If you’ve already sent a friend a message, they’ll still have that message. However, when you deactivate your account, all of your photos and other content are removed.

5. We apologize for the confusion around these issues. We never intended to claim ownership over people’s content even though that’s what it seems like to many people. This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion.

And links to the following blog posts:

There is an issue of privacy of information here and an issue of control.

Slowly, the balance of power is evening itself out.  I used to think it was a shift of power from the corporation to the consumer, and it is, but not a complete shift, I am seeing the beginnings of a more even playing field, where consumers and corporations each have a voice and can create a more mutually beneficial relationship.

The rules change from community to community, but a common thread I’ve noticed is that the community will create the rules and members expect transparency above all else.   In order for the community to survive, the rules need to evolve into something everyone can abide by, not what one party thinks is important.  But sometimes you need a starting point.  The current Facebook Terms of Use are a launching pad.  Do users like the current terms?  It doesn’t appear so.  Would users have come up with it on their own in the early beginnings?  Probably not.  Regardless of whether Facebook had intent on controlling the rights to your personal information, they’re playing nice and engaging the community in this next development round.  It remains to be seen what they do with the feedback, being a social networking site, I would hope they lead by example and follow through on a document that addresses the concerns of the community as best as they can (see the challenge of data portability).

What do you think?

I opened up Google this evening and was drawn in by a new feature for Google Earth.  It told me I could explore the ocean!  Well thoughts of fishes and other marine life danced through my head.  Except it’s not there yet.  What they mean is you can see the terrain on the ocean floor from their satellite imagery.  It’s still impressive, but I’ll check back on that feature once they’ve figured out street view down where it’s wetter under the sea.

In the mean time, I proceeded to explore other parts of the world from the comfort of my computer.  I headed up to Anchorage and saw a whole lot of snow, then jetted down to sunny LA where street view was well developed.  Visited Little Tokyo and looked at some people crossing the street.  I thought ‘what a cool way to explore a place before you ever actually attempt to visit’.  Can you imagine what travelling will be like once street view is worldwide?  I know street view prompted some privacy fears awhile back, but right now, the image quality is blurred just enough that I would never know who that person driving the getaway car is.

After I finished up with LA, I thought I would explore a little more.  My eyes wandered to one of the buttons at the top of the screen.  It was an icon with a picture of a planet.  Space?  And Google?  My curiosity piqued at once.  The drop down menu revealed the ability to look into the heavens (sky mode), and also to head straight to Mars.

Screenshot of Mars from Google Earth 5.0

Screenshot of Mars from Google Earth 5.0

Not only does Google have pictures of Mars from a distance, but you can zoom in to the surface and find points of interest.  Now if this is where encyclopedias are going… I’ll buy the whole set please.

Oh, and the other part that impressed me?  Google already knew that I was on a Mac when I went to download the new Google Earth.  No selecting between a PC file or a Mac file.

Colour me impressed.  I’ll be exploring Google Earth more.

Back in the days before I discovered my inner geek, I was a business student at the U of A.  In one of my international business classes, I remember talking about NAMU (North American Monetary Unit) and the implications of joining our currency with the US and Mexico, kind of like the EU.  Recently, I saw a tweet bringing it up again.  Old conversations circling through in a new platform.

The other day, I queried my Twitter followers for symbols representing Alberta.  I was reminded of social studies in grade school when we explored these topics.

Two recent examples of topics I’ve encountered from topics we talked about in school.  Two topics I don’t think I’ve discussed with anyone since, but both came up on Twitter within a day or two of one another.  It’s kind of like being in class again. Professors and teachers encouraged discussion and conversation.  It opened our young minds to new ideas and dreams.  Brought about different vantage points to a problem, resulting in some creative solutions.  On Twitter, on Friendfeed, Facebook, blog posts, everywhere where there is conversation happening, it’s like walking into a classroom again.  We’re all learning and growing from one another.  We’re all connecting and empowering and trusting and conversing.  Every once in awhile, the vision of a world where we are all connected float back through my mind.  People can solve anything if given a voice and a platform…. so keep on learning… keep on talking… maybe we’ll save the world.

It’s not that I ever meant to give Facebook your contact information.  I wanted to know if you were on the site, and if you weren’t, I wanted to invite you because a lot of other people I knew were there, and I thought you’d have a good time too.  Like inviting you to the party where EVERYONE ELSE is.  Who doesn’t want to be invited to the party?

I always like to come back to issues that we don’t seem to talk about much, such as privacy and the use of information on the web.  There was an interesting post awhile back by Roger Kondrat about privacy on the web.  His post brought a few things to light that I’ve never really thought about before, and that I’m sure many people don’t think about.  The issue of how we share each other’s information so freely in social networks, sometimes without the permission of the owner of that information.  Who decides who shares your information?  Certainly not you… surprised?

Is it too much to ask for a feature where you get to decide right off the bat whether Joe can give your email address to Facebook (using their address book through the social network to search for other contacts and grow their network) or Sally can send you a spammy email chain letter that you’ve seen 500 times before?  Because you’ve signed up for the service, does that automatically mean you have to put up with it?  Is it buyer beware?  Or should we even really care?

From my perspective, the internet so far has remained relatively governed by the people using it.  When the masses don’t like something, typically a change happens.  When the masses remain apathetic, behaviours continue on the way they were going.  So far, some people may have been mildly irritated by requests they get from friends and solicitations to join various networks, but enough people haven’t been irritated enough to warrant any action.  What are the implications of passing along someone’s email address so freely?  Sure, if I’ve been passing it out, it’s free game.. like that phone number on the bathroom stall.  But what about my private number, the one only a handful of people are allowed to know?  What do I do when they start passing that out?  I get calls from the gym they signed up at, from the Mary Kay lady, from a random business contact that I didn’t ask to receive a call from.

My friends have the courtesy (at least they seem to) to ask me before passing along my phone number to anyone.  They ensure I’m comfortable with who they’re given my number to and generally tell me the reason why.  I haven’t seen the same etiquette shown with regards to email addresses and the likes.  Is it because the internet is such an open and sharing place anyway?  Because email addresses don’t seem quite as personal as phone numbers?  Because we are connecting with hundreds of people everyday that we may never meet in person?  What is it that makes this behaviour okay online?  And is it something we should be concerned about?  Should the big companies put in some measure of control for the user over who is sharing their information and who they are sharing it with?  The technology certainly exists…

I haven’t figured out what my stance on this is yet.  It’s opening up a whole can of worms that the internet has avoided so far (like how we control what’s going online, who’s laws apply… do we need a governing body?).  What I cherish about the internet is the fact that it can be so many things.  And so many people are able to connect and converse about virtually anything they want.  It has the power to do so much good, yet if things get out of hand, the potential to become locked down and so ridiculously corporate.  So far it’s been about the citizens taking control.  This is our place to have a voice, to band together and make a difference on so many social issues.

So, is control over your information important to you?  Or is it okay to let others decide with who and when they share what they know about you?

I’m not sure what the answer is here, but I think it’s definitely something worthy of discussion.  What do you think?